Wednesday, 3 September 2014

In Anticipation of The Biba Years 1963-1975

The Biba Years


Very much looking forward to viewing The Biba Years 1963-1975 by Barbara Hulanicki and Martin Pel (published on September 1st). I would imagine that Biba enthusiasts everywhere have been counting down the days to the release date over the summer, ever since the first glimpse of that glorious cover and description of the contents appeared on the V&A Publishing website earlier this year!

fashion book blogger biba

Comprising of 240 pages, it promises to feature a wealth of previously unpublished material, including some of Barbara's early fashion illustrations, as well as archival images, extensive garment photography and full colour reproductions of all six of the original Biba mail-order catalogues, along with personal insights from the designer and her contemporaries. While I await the arrival of my own copy, I've been busying myself by reading Barbara's autobiography again and leafing through my collection of Biba fashion editorials. I'd almost forgotten that I had this issue of The Observer magazine from 1969 which featured the Biba couture range beautifully photographed by Helmut Newton, it seems as good a time as any to post it here.



Write to Biba Ltd, 19 Kensington Church Street, London W8, for a special order form. With it you will get a very detailed measurement chart to complete. It is vital, writes Liz Smith, that you are measured accurately (get a competent person to do it for you). Then send off the order form with £15 deposit. You will be sent a toile of the garment made to your measurements, together with a cutting of the fabric. Alterations can be made on the toile, and it's up to you to ensure it fits exactly the way you want. You will be sent a special chart on which to note any alterations. Finally, send back the approved toile together with the balance of the price, and the dress, suit or coat will be made up for you in the couture fabric. Each garment will be cut to individual measurements out of couture cloth, with perfect buttonholes, hand sewn zips and linings of silk.

fashion book blogger biba
Chocolate brown whipcord trousers and shapely cardigan jacket, 60gn. Cream crepe-de-chine blouse with stock tied softly at the neck, 25gn. Silver rings, 30s. each; fake diamond ring, 30s. Plummy brown snakeskin hat, 25gn. Boots 16gn. from the Chelsea Cobbler. Hair by Valerie, at Cheveux, Abingdon Road, W8.

fashion book blogger biba
Vanilla cape leather coat, wonderfully soft and supple, which buttons up to a high banded collar, with matching aviator's helmet tied under the chin. Coat, 120 gn.; helmet, without veil, 14gn.; gloves, 59s. 6d., by Nerry from Harrrod's, Knightsbridge, SW1

fashion book blogger
Spangled dress, winking and glinting all over, made of black and silver sequins backed on nest crepe, spiraling every inch of the way, shaping you more prettily than ever before, 100gn. Matching head-hugging hat 10gn. without veiling. Silver snake rings, 30s, each.

fashion book blogger
Long dress in burnt orange pure silk satin backed crepe, best of its kind, without ornament except for some tiny buttons up the sleeve, and a detachable hooded cowl, 110 gn. Platform-soled boots, 16 gn., from the Chelsea Cobbler.

All images & original text scanned by Sweet Jane from The Observer magazine, 19th January, 1969. Original editorial by Liz Smith, all photographs by Helmut Newton. *Except for The Biba Years 1963-1975 cover which is courtesy of V&A Publications. Order yourself a copy of The Biba Years 1963-1975 from the V&A online shop here Preview The Biba Years 1963-1975 here.

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